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Del. Marie March, the Republican firebrand from Floyd County and freshman in the House of Delegates, lashed out against Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, at a meeting of the local GOP committee last week, claiming that it was time for generational change in the representation of Virginia’s 9th Congressional District.
“I do believe people are tired of career politicians. Sorry, I mean, Morgan has been in there a long, long time, and I think people like change. So we need to be looking for younger folks to get involved and run for these offices,” March said in an audio recording from the event obtained by Cardinal News, stopping just short of saying that she would mount a primary challenge in 2024.
Griffith, 64, was not present at the meeting at Jessie Peterman Library in Floyd a week ago. Earlier this month, he was reelected for a sixth term, defeating Democrat Taysha DeVaughan with 73.23% to 26.54% of the vote – his highest margin in any of his congressional elections since 2010, with the exception of 2020, when he ran unopposed, receiving 94.4% of the vote.
Despite these numbers, March said in the meeting that while Republicans remained loyal to each other in Floyd County, in the district’s other counties “you can see the Republican Party just being torn apart.”
Joe Turman, the chairman of the Floyd County GOP committee, declined to comment Monday.
“And I want to tell you guys, I knew he was going to have a lot of voter apathy,” March recounted her observations of Griffith’s reelection campaign, adding that when she worked at the flea market in Hillsville, “every other person” came up to her saying how they dreaded having to vote for Griffith. “We heard it the entire time in Carroll County, that’s a solid red county in deep red Southwest Virginia. So I could have told y’all months ago, this wasn’t going to shape up like Morgan would have liked it to,” March said.
Griffith ran in a slightly modified district this year after the Virginia Supreme Court approved new maps for the state’s legislative districts in December. The redrawn 9th Congressional District now covers a large swath of southwestern Virginia, including the New River Valley and the Virginia side of the Tri-Cities. In total, 248,801 voters cast their ballots in this election, with Griffith claiming 182,207 votes.
“These numbers speak for themselves,” Griffith said in a phone interview Monday. “Even for an off-year election, these numbers were extremely good.”
When asked about March’s allegations over a lack of excitement, Griffith said that he doesn’t quite understand how she could reach such a conclusion. “I’m not sure what she’s looking at, unless she was trying to compare this year with the turnout of a gubernatorial or presidential election, but even compared to those, we were still pretty ecstatic with our numbers this month,” he said.
March, the owner of Due South BBQ and Fatback Soul Shack in Christiansburg, was elected to represent the 7th House of Delegates District a little over one year ago. She did not respond to phone calls and text messages Monday.
Miles Coleman, a political scientist at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said that it is entirely possible that March is slowly exploring a potential challenge of Griffith for the Republican nomination in 2024, when a candidate who embraces Donald Trump’s policies – March is a staunch supporter of Trump and attended the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021 – could benefit from his coattails in a presidential election, should the former president once again be his party’s nominee.
“This is a very conservative district, and a candidate who is very conservative and very pro-Trump and very conservative will likely do well. Maybe she feels like Griffifth doesn’t have as much fire in the belly,” Coleman said.
Griffith’s long record as a politician – before he was elected to Congress 12 years ago he had a 17-year career as a state delegate, including 10 years as the majority leader – does not guarantee protections from a primary challenger, Coleman said. “Even the most senior members of the congressional delegation aren’t immune. Just because you’re senior, it doesn’t mean you can get a free ride.”
But while March openly called for an intra-party challenge of Griffith, she is currently fighting her own primary battle against Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, after map makers paired her and Williams in a newly drawn district.
Next year’s primary is expected to be one of the most competitive in the state, and March and Williams already clashed when Williams bumped into her at the 9th Congressional District Gala in Wytheville in September. March, who alleges that her Republican colleague intentionally body-checked her, has sworn out a warrant against Williams, who will be arraigned on Dec. 15.
When asked to comment Monday on March’s push to replace Griffith, Williams said in a text message that right now the district “is concerned with electing a representative who will put in the hard work to defend our conservative values here in Southwest, not on accruing political titles and whatever drama Marie is focused on manufacturing.”
A good legislator, Williams said, “shouldn’t have time for this kind of gamesmanship and random attacks against fellow Republicans.”